From the very first page this book presented its own style of writing and humor that’s very self-evident. I think if you read the sample chapter you’ll be able to know quickly whether or not this book will be to your taste, and I think it would appeal to those who enjoy Pratchett.
There are a number of POVs, but arguably the two main characters are Fred and Elsebet. Fred is the ex-Fool who worked for a King but has since lost his seat, his license for professional Foolery, and can’t earn any money without having a licensed hat. One bad circumstance lead to another and Fred has found himself in Whellan country. He was told while growing up that Whellen country was full of slaves, beaten down citizens, filth, and pestilence. Turns out it’s immaculate, and the average common citizen lives like royalty compared to where he’s from, and the feared ruler Elsebet isn’t the tyrant he thought she was. Whellen is actually quite advanced, and even has a bit of a democracy of sorts, where the people vote whether to keep the monarchy family in power for another three generations… or not. And that’s where Elsebet finds herself at the beginning of the book, her family is going to be voted on soon and it could go very poorly if they aren’t re-elected. She also wants the help of a healer named Doktor Lively, but he hasn’t come… instead he has sent her a message saying “HELP ME”. What a predicament!
I found that Elsebet was a very easy character to relate to and enjoy. She’s older, wiser, and more down to earth than you typically get with royalty characters. I did not really warm up to Fred for a while, though. He’s kind of an ass and can be a brisk jerk as well. Not what you’d expect from a Fool, but he’s also an outcast and broke, so he’s got a right to be grumpy. He does grow on me a bit by the end, but I found it difficult to initially sink into his character which had me bouncing off it a bit in the early parts of the book.
The world building was great, I really loved it. There’s a lot of nuanced details that aren’t hammered into your head with long info dump dialogue. Men and women are more or less equal here with either gender in the ruling class, with a slight twist with women are the more physically capable gender and more often were warriors while men took on more administrative jobs. Magic is supposed to be a myth, but as a reader you’ll suspect there’s a lot more than myth going on. There are fantastical elements afoot before all the magic stuff gets down — Fred’s companion is a talking magpie, lol.
The writing style is unique to this book and has one of the most stylized prose of any of the books in my batch. Again, if you look at the sample online you can see what I mean. There are a lot of simile, metaphor, adjectives, adverbs and all manner of flourishing language that you have to pay attention to, or miss something. It’s also similar to Pratchett in that it wanders from POV to POV in an omniscient third person kind of way. I would not say this reads “lightly” in that respect, but the tone is certainly light/comedic for much of the book — but not all of it. I felt like there was enough substantial plot and character development to ground the more absurd/comedic elements to give an average reader who isn’t just looking for a laugh to get enjoyment from this book.
Overall, very strong comedic entry from Eva Sandor, and anyone who likes Pratchett should at least give this a try.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 75/100